Lucy Ives is the author of the novel Loudermilk. She also has written the novel Impossible Views of the World, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Art in America and Artforum. She lives in New York City.
Q: You write, "When I began writing this novel, I was, mostly without knowing it, reproducing a trope from the libertine canon." How does Loudermilk fit into that canon?
A: I'm not sure if I can—or, one can—write a libertine novel in this era. When I wrote that my novel "reproduces" that trope, I meant that it quotes one aspect of an earlier style of novel-writing—probably without becoming part of that canon. Mistaken identity, weird twins, stories of metamorphosis: these are all things we associate with plays and prose that predate the 19th century (think about Shakespeare, for example).
You have to work pretty hard to get a scenario like this to seem believable in the contemporary moment, although some silly Hollywood films have been successful: Twins, Freaky Friday, and so on. And, to be honest, Loudermilk probably fits a bit more comfortably into that canon (i.e., the comic-loss-of-control-over-self/identity-in-the-U.S. canon), even as it has plenty of elements of high culture, so called.
Q: The novel takes place at a creative writing program in the Midwest, and you include samples of the characters' writing. What was it like to write about writers, and to write in their voices?
A: It was like writing 20 mini-novels I had to make work together somehow! It was very difficult!
Q: In a review of the novel in The Nation, Charlie Markbreiter calls Loudermilk "a modern-day version of the 19th century bourgeois novel’s dramas of inheritance." What do you think of that description?
A: I appreciated Markbreiter's review, particularly because he had read a lot of my earlier writing and who doesn't love a reviewer who does their homework?!
In general, I am very interested in questions about what we have inherited from our parents and how we may or may not reproduce their lives or the lives of other ancestors through our own ways of living. I'm not sure if that's the same thing as thinking about 19th-century novels that are essentially about how people make their ways in worlds in which there is very little social mobility; I think that's a different set of questions.
Loudermilk was fun to write because it can be mistaken for a whole host of traditional/historical novel forms, and I liked thinking about the readers who would try to pin it down in a typological sense. I'm not really convinced that's so easy to do...
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the novel?
A: Laughter, tears.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: An enormous to-do list.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I wasted an hour just now making custom emojis of everyone I know and it was a terrible waste of time but also sort of beautiful.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Lucy Ives.